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Skyline shows effects don't have to break the bank

November 12, 2010 |  1:09 pm

Colin and Greg Strause worry that filmmaking, especially for stories requiring elaborate visual effects, has become prohibitive. "I think movies cost too much," says Greg, 35, two years older than brother Colin.

But there are profound discounts when you can do the work yourself, and the do-it-yourself evidence is this weekend's "Skyline."

The brothers, who run the Santa Monica visual effects house Hydraulx, shot their self-financed alien invasion film for about $1 million, and then added some $9 million in visual effects. Had they sold the same effect shots to a studio paying market rates, the brothers (who also directed 2007's "AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator--Requiem" for 20th Century Fox) estimate the job would have cost as much as $30 million. "But we're doing it all in house," Colin says, "so it's much cheaper."

Early reviews for the film have not been kind, with several of the movie's earliest notices slamming "Skyline's" screenplay and acting. But the comments for the Strause brothers' effects have been noticeably kinder.

One Australian reviewer, in an otherwise caustic smackdown, said: "Luckily, 'Skyline'  offers enough of a visual spectacular in the decimation of LA and the array of alien creatures and hardware to keep audiences entertained." The Hollywood Reporter, which was equally hard on the film, pointed out that "Skyline" does have "some occasionally inspired imagery." Glenn Kenny, writing for MSN Movies, said, "the brothers ARE pretty good with the tentacled, stomping, brain-ingesting, blowing-stuff-up aspects of the visuals, which get even more fun as they grow cheesier."

"Skyline" opens just as Sony Pictures released a new trailer for "Battle Los Angeles," another alien attack film set for next March on which Hydraulx did effects work. Sony complained -- but did not file a lawsuit alleging -- that some of "Skyline" may have been lifted from "Battle Los Angeles," but the brothers dispute the suggestion. "Nobody has a monopoly on a genre," Greg says. Adds Colin: "And they're totally different."

--John Horn

Photo of Donalad Faison, left, and Eric Balfour in "Skyline." Credit: Hydraulx/Rogue





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If I was all thumbs, they'd be all down.

Sure, the effects were good. But I saw this thing, and the script really was bad. (A lot of motivations that are never explained. Instead, it's like you're just supposed to infer the motivations because, you know, we're in that kind of movie, a sort of reliance on what we already know and expect from this sort of film.) At, what, 10 million it sounds like, it will probably break even, right? But it won't be a blockbuster. Isn't it interesting that people actually really care about how good the script is? I mean, say what you will about the genre, but peel away the effects, and you can see why Iron Man was a huge hit and this isn't.


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